The Last Real Carnival Sideshow?

The Erie Times News ran an interesting article about why the days of the classic carny freakshow are numbered. The article is set in the World of Wonders, one of the last "odditoriums" still on the carnival circuit.
"Thank God as a young boy I saw someone sticking a nail up their nose, or I would have a terrible life,'' said Apocalypse as he pulled a cigarette out of a metal Band-Aid tin. "You want to see a freak show? A guy sitting in a cubicle, staring into a computer all day, typing until he gets carpal tunnel syndrome, with a 'thank God it's Friday' coffee mug sitting on his desk. There's your freak show.''
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Big Privacy Stink Over Small Tech

Gillete announced a plan to embed radio-frequency identification tags in razors to foil shoplifters.
From Small Times: "A pilot is already under way at a Tesco store in Cambridge, England, which is testing whether a Gillette 'smart shelf' can use RFID to foil shoplifters (Gillette has found that if someone takes more than two or three packages of razors, they're probably stealing)."
People are freaked out that if more products become tagged, someone could drive by your house and gather a list of what you buy. The (current) reality though is that the RFID scanner has to be within three feet of a tag to read it. Personally, I'm more interested in the cool nano/micro-fluidic technique Gillete's RFID vendor, Alien Technology, developed to make these things on the cheap. Link Discuss Read the rest

Mena's Tokyo Disneyland pix

Mena and Ben "Moveable Type" Trott recently took a biz-trip to Tokyo and got to spend an afternoon at Tokyo Disneyland/Disney Sea. Mena's posted a gallery of fantastic shots from the Parks. I am turgid with jealousy. I yearn to visit Japan, to see the Akihabara, to wander the alleys of Tokyo Disneyland, to buy a square watermelon from a vending machine. Link Discuss (Thanks, Mena!) Read the rest

King Kukulele's Tiki Paradise

Here's an article I wrote for the LA Weekly about a guy named Denny Moynahan who is converting an abandoned building in Los Angeles into a Tiki-themed apartment complex. The Weekly didn't run any pictures, but I've got some here. Link Discuss Read the rest

Wacko Jacko's nose game

Here's a little quiz for you. Can you pick which of the 15 noses belong to Michael Jackson? (I got 13 out of 15.) Link Discuss Read the rest

Microsoft's SPOT watch uses FM radio signals

Interesting article about the way Microsoft's SPOT (smart peronsal object technology) watch will work.
Microsoft ... settled on a data rate of 12 kilobits per second. In a given day... more than 125 megabytes can be transferred in the radio broadcasts. Microsoft ... secretly cut deals with FM radio stations around the country to lease the sub-carrier spectrum... enough coverage to hit about 80 percent of the country, and all major metropolitan areas. Microsoft found a way to personalize the watches: giving each a unique identification number. Then, as the watch is receiving the DirectBand signals, it looks only for data associated with the ID number. Hence, your watch only stores data on the sports teams you like and discards the rest. And because the watch knows which radio station it is receiving the information from, it can use that knowledge to reset itself. For instance, if you travel to Dallas, the watch will pick up signals from the Dallas radio station and reset itself for the appropriate time zone.
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Email campaign to flush Rush shows promise

After listening to Rush Limbaugh call war protestors "anti-American," "anti-capitalist," and "communists," Vietnam war veteran Micheal Stinson started an email campaign to boycott Rush's show. So far Radio Shack, Amtrak, and Bose have stopped sponsoring the program. Personally, I don't care what happens to Rush's program. If his show gets killed (which I doubt it will) some other blowhard will take his place. Link Discuss Read the rest

Fray Cafe 3 at SXSW

Derek sez, "The third-annual Fray Cafe has been scheduled for Sunday March 9, right after the SXSW Web Awards ceremony. If you were turned away last year when the venue filled up, rest assured that the venue is much larger this year -- The Mercury Lounge! Start practicing those stories." Link Discuss (Thanks, Derek!) Read the rest

Stross and me on the WELL

Charlie "Hugo Nominee" Stross and I are having a two-week-long discussion on the WELL's public Inkwell.vue conference, in honor of the publication of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. Even if you don't have a WELL account, you can join in by emailing questions to Charlie.
Social incentives are the most powerful forces in our world -- the reason you can't wear your underwear on your head is because of disapprobation. The most disruptive thing about the Internet is its ability to locate you in homogenous communities that embrace the same values as you, so that there's no dialectic in socail pressure: IOW, you can spend all your time in and never get the funny looks that would cause you to reconsider your fashion choices. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (except when it is, i.e., alt.big.nazi.idiots), but it is a powerfully disruptive thing.

Sidebar: in our second collaboration, "Flowers from Alice," we deal with uploaded "people' who can instantiate many copies of themselves in parallel. One of the interesting things about this is that it suggests that attention isn't necessarily a scarce resource -- if you need to do two things at once, you just make another copy to do it...

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Dumpster Diving: an experience not to be missed

This morning's Kuro5hin has a great article on the ins and outs of dumpster diving. I've always been fascinated by diving (and I've done a little myself -- see this Wired article I wrote). I recently got sent a copy of Dumpster Diving: The Advanced Course, How to Turn Other People's Trash into Money, Publicity, and Power, a Paladin Press book written as a follow-on to the classic "The Art and Science of Dumpster Diving." The hardcore divers I know are all a little on the intense side, filled with folk wisdom and radical philosophy about trash and politics, and the author of DD:TAC is no exception. The book is a kind of extended rant, alternating between fish-tales about the big, big dumpster scores, stories of inadvertent discovery of secret information that blows the lid off of political conspiracies, and love found and lost in the trash. The Paladin Press titles vary pretty widely in writing-quality, but this is definitely on the high-end of the scale, and the information is invaluable. As the landfills overflow and the moments of our lives grow ever more ephemeral, there is no experience more life-changing that dumpster-diving. I think everyone should spend a couple nights in the trash, at least once in their lives. Link Discuss Read the rest

Big trouble on the funnies page

San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum is hosting an exhibit of controversy in comic strips, including both the offending strips and the hate-mail they generated.

1900s: The Yellow Kid and the Katzenjammer Kids are cited for bad influence on youth.

1910s: In Polly and Her Pals, the "new woman" dares to show ankle.

1930s: Little Orphan Annie creator Harold Gray ridicules labor and FDR's New Deal. Dick Tracy becomes the first action strip to depict violence in America's backyard.

1940s: In Li'l Abner, Al Capp kicks against the establishment.

1950s: Pogo creator Walt Kelly lampoons Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy.

1960s: On Stage introduces a black character; several papers cancel the strip.

1970s: "How come there's no blacks in this honky outfit?" asks Lt. Flap in Beetle Bailey. Garry Trudeau brings hashish and Watergate to the funnies in Doonesbury.

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Human sewage recycled into artificial ski-snow

An Australian ski-resort is recycling black-water (sewage) into artificial snow:
Waste from resort is converted into usable water in two ways, both at a recycling plant for initial treatment, and then separately through a three-step purifying process of UV light filtration, ozonation and ultra-filtration. The final ultra-filtration step removes all suspended solids from the liquid including all biological matter, alive or dead. The resulting water is even free of viruses, bacteria and spores from cryptosporidium or giardia. The treated wastewater is then used in conjunction with meltwater and creekwater from surrounding areas to create snow.
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180,000 Canadian personal records AWOL from IBM

IBM, which operates data-archiving vaults in Canada, has lost a hard-drive containing the records for 180,000 customers of an insurance company. The records contain everything an enterprising identity thief needs, including Social Insurance Numbers, names, addresses, mothers' maiden names, beneficiaries and pre-authorized checking information. Link Discuss Read the rest

This Phone is Tapped

25 "This Phone is Tapped" USAPATRIOT stickers for $5.50, suitable for prominent placement on the phones in your life. Link Discuss (via JWZ's LiveJournal) Read the rest

Googlebox saves San Diego

Google is a private company and is notoriously closed-mouth about its revenue sources. We know that some of the money comes from partnership deals, and that some of it comes from Google "appliances" for searching private networks, but it's rare to actually get information on what actual customers pay for the service and why Google's pitch is attractive. The city of San Diego recently dropped $23,000 on a Googlebox that has completely changed the way that city employees and residents interact with each other. The interesting thing for me is that the competition here proposed a much more expensive "solution" that involved creating an explicit taxonomy and then manually tagging all the city's docs within it. In other words, the competition's pitch is, "First, tell us everything you have, then we'll tell you what you've got." No wonder Google's kicking ass in the market.
Bill Cull, the city's E-government program manager, says that because city officials were so familiar with Google, it was hard to ignore the vendor's pitch. It also didn't hurt that it was being offered a special price as a public entity. The city opted for a single Google server with a license to search an index of up to 150,000 documents. The result has been a welcome improvement for the city's 8,000 computer-equipped employees and its nearly 250,000 unique monthly site visitors: Cull says employees are using stuff they didn't know existed, and citizens are sending E-mail about the search success they're having.
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Human front-side-bus-multiplier discovered

Purdue researchers have isolated the protein that controls the body's clock -- by fuxoring with it, they hypothesise that they can induce "days" that are longer or shorter than 24h in humans and other organisms.
To confirm that the protein was responsible not just for regulating growth but for all activities set by the biological clock, Pin-Ju Chueh, then a microbiology graduate student in Dorothy Morre's lab, isolated the gene which produced the protein within cells. The team then cloned the protein and altered it in ways that produced different period lengths.

"We found that we could produce clocks with cycles of between 22 and 42 minutes," James Morre said. "The 'day' which the cell experienced was precisely 60 times the period length of the protein's cycle. We even found that feeding cells heavy water gave them a 27-minute cycle of growth and rest, so that old piece of information served to confirm our theory."

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Live from the Blogosphere in LA Feb 15

If you live in Los Angeles, you are invited to a panel discussion about weblogs, moderated by Xeni. I'll be on the panel, along with Evan Williams, the creator of Blogger, Susannah Breslin of the Reverse Cowgirl Blog, Doc Searls of Linux Journal, Tony Pierce of Busblog, and Heather Havrelisky of Rabbit Blog. For time and location, read this press release: Link Discuss Read the rest

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